In the halcyon days of 1991, Nintendo was the undisputed champ of the console wars. Its top competitor, Sega, had reached meteoric heights with the Genesis console but it never overtook Nintendo. Still, Nintendo wanted to stay ahead of the curve, and they were interested in CD-ROM gaming.  So, when Sony announced that they had inked a deal with fellow Japanese company Nintendo, it looked like the pair were about to become the superpowers of gaming. But as we all know, that’s not how it played out.

Today, Nintendo and Sony are both mainstays of the gaming landscape. They are technically competitors, but they occupy two different realms of the industry. The console wars are mostly fought between Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox, with Nintendo happy to dodge the conflict altogether. That said, Nintendo is still very much a formidable force in the gaming industry and is still capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Sony.

Sony vs Nintendo: Side by Side Comparison

Before we jump in, let’s run down some quick comparisons between the two companies.

SonyNintendo
ConsolesPS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS5NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Switch
Exclusive TitlesUncharted, God of War, Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, InFAMOUS, Sly Cooper, Rachet & ClankMario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Metroid, Pokémon, Animal Crossing
Year Established19461889
Market Cap109.87 billion49.36 billion
Current Console GenPlayStation 4, PlayStation 5Nintendo Switch

Sony vs Nintendo: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to look at the past decade of the console wars and count Nintendo out. Sony for its part has a bull pin of incredible exclusive titles, cutting-edge hardware that rivals some PCs, and a loyal fanbase. Nintendo occupies a more “family-friendly” environment and Nintendo die-hards are unrivaled in their dedication.

To understand the current state of Sony and Nintendo, you’ve got to go back to the very beginning.

A Brief History of Nintendo

Nintendo has been around for a very long time. Founded in 1889, it started as a Japanese toy company focused on hanafuda playing cards. The Nintendo we recognize today didn’t come about until 1986 and the Family Computer, or Famicom. A year later the Famicom came to the US under the new name Nintendo Entertainment System and that lit a fire that still burns today.

Nintendo has been producing legendary consoles for decades. The NES, SNES, N64, and Nintendo Wii were all huge successes while the GameCube and even Wii U have garnered loyal if small fanbases. Nintendo’s success is due, in large part, to its deep roster of exclusive titles. Fan favorites like DK, Link, and everyone’s favorite Italian plumber Mario, have driven Nintendo to become one of the two lasting successes.

Sony’s Gaming History

Today, the Sony name is inextricably linked to the gaming industry but that wasn’t always the case. Up until 1991, Sony was mostly known as a microelectronics company that produced audio-focused products. In the late ’80s, and early 90’s CD-ROM was the talk of the games industry. Until then, games were (mostly) housed on plastic cartridges that could be inserted into consoles. Cartridges had their limitations though, limitations CD-ROMs didn’t.

An engineer at Sony named Ken Kutaragi started pushing the company to enter the booming video games industry. After some initial reluctance, Sony decided to pursue a partnership with Nintendo to create a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES or Super Famicom in Japan. Which leads to the fateful year of 1991. Nintendo and Sony started work on the Nintendo PlayStation (an oxymoron nowadays) in 1989. Sony unveiled the secretive project two years later at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and instantly became the talk of the show. That was until Nintendo announced that it had decided to partner with Sony rival Philips the very next day.

Sony was left holding a partly finished add-on for a company that had just spat in their face. Beyond the corporate intrigue, there was a question of what to do now? Sony had two choices: take the loss and move on or find another way into the games market, they chose the latter and Sony Computer Entertainment was born.

The Sony PlayStation was released in Japan on December 3rd, 1994, and it was an overnight hit. It sold 100,000 units on the first day, 2 million in the first six months, and to date has sold 102.49 million units lifetime. Not bad for a SNES add-on.

Who Makes the Better Console?

The release of the Sony PlayStation changed the landscape of the gaming industry forever. Its release was very close to the release of the Sega Saturn. In fact, it was the tense competition and growing market share of Sony and Nintendo which eventually caused Sega to bow out of the console wars altogether. But which of these two builds the better console and how have their consoles evolved over time?

Nintendo 64 vs Sony PlayStation

Hardware

In 1994 with the release of the Sony PlayStation, the move from 2D to 3D was solidified and AAA gaming has never looked back. The Sony PlayStation had a 32-bit CPU and could render 3D graphics and full motion video, basically unheard of outside PC games like Doom at the time. Unsurprisingly, it played games off CD-ROMs which allowed for better graphics and larger games.

The original PlayStation controller was not the DualShock, the launch controller was missing the twin sticks and was wired into the console. It did however have the green triangle, red circle, blue X, and pink square that would become synonymous with the consoles brand.

Two years later, Nintendo unveiled its entry into the world of 3D gaming, and it did not disappoint. The Nintendo 64, often shortened to N64 was a juggernaut and more than an answer to the gauntlet thrown down by Sony. It had a 64-bit processor and a higher polygon count leading to smoother graphics compared to Sony’s “jaggy” edges.

Nintendo also ditched the flat gamepad for the N-shaped N64 controller. The controller design was considered awkward due to the strange shape and button layout. It did introduce the joystick though, something that would become a mainstay in all contemporary controllers that followed.

Sales

Despite Nintendo’s hardware advantage the N64, while a success, was massively outsold by the PlayStation. In the first year, Nintendo sold around 3.6 million N64 units in the US. Nintendo outsold PlayStation in its first year but it was unable to hold onto that lead. To date, over 105.5 million units of the Sony PlayStation have been sold worldwide, compared to 33 million N64 Units.

Games

Sony would eventually be known for its lineup of exclusive titles, but that would come later. In this head-to-head, Nintendo had the goods. We are talking about legends like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, DK 64, and Super Mario 64 just to name a few. Sony had Crash Bandicoot, which helped them compete, but in the games category, it’s got to go the house that Mario built.

GameCube vs PS2

Let the trouncing begin. After the success of both the original PlayStation and N64, fans were eager to see what the two companies had in store for the next generation. Sony answered this question with the lauded PlayStation 2, a legendary console that improved on its predecessor in every way. Nintendo answered with the GameCube, a beloved console that garnered a loyal fanbase but ultimately fell short of the company’s hopes.

Hardware

The Nintendo GameCube had a 32-bit IBM Gekko chip which outperformed the PS2’s “emotion engine” chip. In truth, the PS2 was a slight downgrade in processing power from the PS1, but the big advantage it had was how it ran games. Instead of CD-ROMs like its predecessor, the PS2 ran games on DVD format. This allowed it to play much bigger games with improved graphics. However, the lack of processing power compared to competitor Nintendo was noticeable to fans.

The controllers were closer in design than the previous generation. Sony only made a few technical modifications to the DualShock 1 in designing the DualShock 2. It had the same layout as the original with two joysticks and the iconic face buttons.

The Nintendo GameCube controller was a complete redesign from the N64 controller. It was way more comfortable than its predecessor and had a less confusing layout.

Sales

The PS2 sold more than 500,000 units on its first day. It shattered the record for fastest-selling game console and it shipped 10 million units by 2002. It is one of the most successful consoles of all time with over 158 million units sold worldwide.

The GameCube ended up netting a tidy profit for Nintendo but nothing close to what the company was hoping for. The initial sales were promising, Nintendo sold $100 million of GameCube products during the first weekend. But sales slowed to a crawl over the next few years and eventually the GameCube only sold 22 million units, well below the expected goal of 50 million by 2005.

Nintendo also lost a great deal of its market share during this console generation. PlayStation had captured much of the gaming market after its launch. It outpaced the N64 as it pulled away in sales. The GameCube did little to recapture that market share and watched as Sony gobbled up 60% of the market in North America. The GameCube split its share of the market with up-and-comer Xbox.

Games

It’s no doubt that this generation signaled a shift for Nintendo. Sony’s PS2 was riding high due to its incredible exclusive game library. PS2 had titles like Metal Gear Solid 2, God of War I & II, Crash Bandicoot, and the list goes on and on.

Nintendo for their part had its usual lineup of characters but experimented with them in a variety of ways. Legend of Zelda: Windwaker and Twilight Princess were both huge departures from the Zelda format. Games like Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Mario Sunshine are still being played to this day.

Sony’s lineup of games still takes the cake here, though. The games on PS2 defined a generation of gamers and changed the way games are played. Nintendo’s ultimate refusal to deviate from its family-friendly image gave Sony the clear advantage.

Nintendo Wii vs PlayStation 3

The Nintendo Wii revolutionized the gaming industry in many ways. The PlayStation 3 introduced the world to some incredible titles that fed the fire of the growing console war being fought between Sony and Microsoft.

Hardware

After the mixed success of GameCube, Nintendo had a choice to make. They could shift their next console to fit with a changing industry or they could go all in on their fun, family-friendly image. We all know what they chose. The Nintendo Wii had modest specifications compared to its competitors. Nintendo used commercially available hardware to build the Wii to keep the price low. The goal of the Wii was not to compete with Sony and gaming newcomer Microsoft.

The biggest focus of the Wii was the Wii Remote, which introduced motion controls into the mix. This created a new dimension in games like the Legend of Zelda. In the Twilight Princess Wii release, you could hack and slash with the Wii remote and it would mirror your movements on screen. This was hugely popular with Wii Sports, the popular motion-controlled sports game.

The PlayStation 3, on the other hand, charted the same course it had been on. It used a Cell microprocessor which gave it a huge leg up in the graphics department. This allowed it to push the limits of 3D gaming to new heights. This is specifically on display in the Uncharted series of games.

The design of the new console was bulky, but a slim version was released in later years which made it more attractive. The DualShock 3 controller was, again, only a slight configuration of previous models. Some critics even disparaged the controller for feeling cheaply made and flimsy.

Sales

The Nintendo Wii was a massive success for the company. In the first year, it sold 5.84 million units compared to the PS3’s 3.68 million, which fell short of Sony’s projections. The slowed sales were likely due to the significant price increase from the PS2 to the PS3, something that fans and critics alike balked at.

To date, PS3 has sold 87.41 million units worldwide. Nintendo has sold over 101 million units worldwide since 2006, making it Nintendo’s second best-selling console.

Games

PlayStation continued to produce tons of games celebrated for their technical achievements and storytelling quality. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us are widely regarded as masterpieces. Other Sony exclusives like God of War 3, Little Big Planet, and the InFAMOUS series rounded out an already stacked roster.

Nintendo’s offerings were more sparing, but they were no less impactful. Wii Sports, Mario Cart Wii, and Wii Sports Resort are among some of the best-selling console games of all time. Other ports like Resident Evil 4 and Twilight Princess received rave reviews in their Wii versions.

Wii U vs PS4

PlayerO Play-Station 4 PS4 1TB Slim Edition Gaming Console with 1 Wireless Controller, Jet Black - 8-core x86-64 AMD Jaguar CPU, 1.84 TFLOPS AMD Radeon GPU, 8GB GDDR5 Memory, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GUDVGE USW X86-64 AMD "Jaguar" 8 Cores Processor; 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon Based Graphics Engine
  • 8GB GDDR5 Memory; 1TB Storage Capacity
  • 1080p Full HD Resolution.
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.0; HDMI (HDR Output Supported)
  • Wireless Controller. Note: Vertical Stand Sold Separately. VITYOAL USW HDMI_cable

The PlayStation 4 was released on November 15th, 2013, and Sony continued to improve on the form. Now established rival Xbox had cut into PlayStation’s Market Share during the previous generation with the huge success of the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. The PS4 needed to cover some serious ground.

Nintendo’s offering this time around is probably the most divisive console they have ever released. Some fans welcomed the new tablet controller and updated Wii. Still, others were left scratching their heads wondering just what the hell Nintendo was thinking.

Hardware

The PS4 was and is a powerhouse, plain and simple. While the technical specs were pretty similar to rival Xbox One, its graphics capabilities were on a whole other level. It features a 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon graphics engine with 8GB of GDDR5 Ram. Specifically, PS4’s use of HDR, or high dynamic range, was a game-changer. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn look stunning on the PS4, and it has the power to back up even the biggest games.

In contrast, the Nintendo Wii was an upgrade on the Wii but very much behind its contemporaries. Both Xbox One and PS4 trounced it in the specs department and picture quality is a no contest.

As Nintendo likes to do, the controller is the biggest selling point of the Wii U. It acts as a controller and an additional screen. The controller is big and bulky to accommodate the display which makes it awkward to play with for extended periods of time. The build is also a very cheap feeling. Many critics said the tablet controller feels like something Fischer Price would make, not Nintendo.

The PS4’s controller was also updated but less drastically. The main difference is the addition of the touchpad at the top of the controller. This can be used to access menus or maps and some games even tried to incorporate it into mini-games, with mixed success.

Sales

PS4 did healthy sales with 81.2 million units sold by 2018. On the other hand, the Wii U only sold 13.56 million units over its entire lifetime. The Wii U feels like a blip on the map of Nintendo’s history and in some ways it was. Popular speculation is that the Wii U was just a herald for its successor, the Nintendo Switch.

Current Generation

Nintendo Switch – OLED Model w/ White Joy-Con
  • 7-inch OLED screen - Enjoy vivid colors and crisp contrast with a screen that makes colors pop
  • Wired LAN port - Use the dock’s LAN port when playing in TV mode for a wired internet connection
  • 64 GB internal storage - Save games to your system with 64 GB of internal storage
  • Enhanced audio – Enjoy enhanced sound from the system’s onboard speakers when playing in Handheld and Tabletop modes.
  • Wide adjustable stand – Freely angle the system’s wide, adjustable stand for comfortable viewing in Tabletop mode. Nintendo Switch – OLED Model supports all Joy-Con controllers and Nintendo Switch software

It is unfair to talk about the PS5’s hardware, sales, and games as it is still relatively new. A lot of people are still waiting to get one as the pandemic and chip shortage have made units very scarce.

The Nintendo Switch, however, has been out since 2017 and has solidified Nintendo’s place in the current landscape of gaming. The Switch has already outsold both the PS4 and Xbox One to date. It is the best-selling console that Nintendo has ever had.

There is a lot of talk about “next-gen” consoles and what it means to be on the cutting edge of gaming technology. While PlayStation and Xbox have continued to push the limits of what consoles can do, Nintendo has pushed the limits of what consoles are.

The Nintendo Switch is a hybrid console, meaning it can be played like a traditional console or easily switch to a handheld. This has set it apart from its competitors in a way that Nintendo has failed to do until now. And with the release of a smash hit, genre-shifting games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has proven a worthy part of the gaming landscape.

Sony vs Nintendo: 5 Must-Know Facts

That was a lot, we hear you. Hopefully, you understand these two companies and the consoles they have made a little better. Let’s run through a few facts as a quick refresher.

  • Sony and Nintendo once collaborated on a CD-ROM-based gaming add-on for the SNES, However, Nintendo decided to end the partnership to push Sony out of the industry.
  • To date, the Nintendo Switch has outsold both PS4 and Xbox One making it Nintendo’s best-selling console ever.
  • While technically competitors, Sony and Nintendo occupy different parts of the gaming landscape. Sony is very much at the cutting edge of gaming technology and a fierce competitor in the console wars. Nintendo is a more family-friendly option focused on its deep roster of exclusives and Indie eShop offerings.
  • The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5 mark the 9th generation of home consoles along with the Xbox Series X/S
  • The PlayStation 2 remains the best-selling gaming console of all time with 159 million units sold over its lifetime

Conclusion

So, who makes the best console? Depends on who you ask. Some would say that Nintendo dropped the ball and has no chance of catching up. Others would say that Sony and Xbox are just pushing themselves closer and closer to obsolesce as PC gaming continues to rise as an alternative.

The one thing that is for sure, is that both Sony and Nintendo are important to the gaming landscape. Sony for its incredible contributions to gaming technology and deep investment in meaningful gaming experiences. Nintendo for its fearlessness to try something new and untested. It’s unclear what the next generation of gaming will shape up to be but if the past is any indication, it’s going to be something to see.

Last update on 2022-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Nintendo vs Sony: The Best Gaming Console FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What happened with Nintendo and Sony?

Nintendo signed a deal that allowed Sony to produce a CD-ROM for its dominant console, the SNES. However, the two companies never worked together because of a misunderstanding that neither Nintendo nor Sony can clearly explain. Before Nintendo’s announcement that it was partnering with Philips, Sony had publicly declared that it had gotten into a contract with Nintendo. Sony felt betrayed and opted for revenge, while Nintendo focused on working with Philips.

When did Sony and Nintendo split?

Sony and Nintendo parted ways in June 1991.

What came first, Sony or Nintendo?

The first console company was Nintendo. It introduced its first Color TV game in 1977, while Sony released the PlayStation in 1944.

Who won console wars?

Nintendo started as the best overall, but the PlayStation gradually replaced it. Since Sony released the PlayStation 2, It has dominated the video game market, defeating Nintendo.

Who is richer, Nintendo or Sony?

Sony is richer than Nintendo. According to a financial report by Sony, it had a revenue of US$81.38 billion in 2020. Nintendo’s revenue was US$1.60 billion in 2021.

Are Nintendo and Sony rivals?

At this point, Nintendo isn’t a threat to Sony. Therefore, the two aren’t rivals today.

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